Monday, June 10, 2013

The Royal Cyphers: E VII R

Studying the royal cyphers has revealed my complete ignorance of the recent history of the British monarchy. I initially suspected that the prior royal cypher, GR, belonged to Queen Elizabeth II's father. In fact, Queen Elizabeth II's father was George VI - portrayed by Colin Firth in the 2010 film The King's Speech - which meant that the GR cypher belonged to his father, the current monarch's grandfather. Before figuring this out, I had seen a pair of cyphers that I assumed must have belonged to Her Majesty's father and grandfather. As it turns out, the second cypher - E VII R - belonged to George V's predecessor, his father, Edward VII. Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth II's uncle, famously abdicated after less than a year on the throne, so I doubt I'll run across any post boxes with his cypher on them - in fact, he was never crowned, so I'm not even confident that any exist.

At any rate, that means that there's a minimum sixteen year gap - 1936 to 1952 - between the E II R post boxes I've seen elsewhere, and the George V ones. But earlier than that are the Edward VII ones, which actually date back to at least 1910, when Edward VII died. So, that means that at the corner of King Street and University Road, and at Schoolhill, and probably elsewhere in Aberdeen, there are post boxes that date back to before World War I - in fact, to before the sinking of the Titanic. It's amazing to think what's happened in Aberdeen, and around the world, since those things were installed. It's amazing how durable they are - they don't make 'em like that anymore!

Also, I was corrected by my neighbor, whom we'll call CN Glaswegian Sensation. According to her:
In Scotland there is no Queen Elizabeth the Second. The current reigning monarch in Scotland is Queen Elizabeth. There has never been a second up here. It is different for the rest of the UK. You will never find a postbox in Scotland which says ER II. It is only ER. Most of the postboxes with ER II were set on fire. :)


You can look at the case of MacCormick v Lord Advocate and the pillar box war which started in 1953. :)
So, I stand corrected. Of course, she's right. As I've noted in my various Scottish Nationalism posts, Scots take their own history and culture very seriously, and the political union with the rest of the island that took place in 1707 didn't erase prior Scottish history.

For the uninitiated, it gets a touch confusing at that point, because what happens is that the generational titles become different for the Scots than for the rest of the United Kingdom. The most famous example of this is King James - known to most, perhaps, as the commissioner of the King James Bible - who reigned as James I in England and Ireland, but as James VI in Scotland. England and Scotland were, at that time, independent sovereign states, so the rule of James and his successors would be akin to a modern Arab monarch ruling both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates simultaneously. Hence, two different generational titles for two independent thrones. This is relevant to our present discussion of the royal cyphers on post boxes because - as Glaswegian Sensation points out - the current British monarch is the first monarch named Elizabeth to reign in both England and Scotland, as the prior English monarch of the same name, the famous Elizabeth, directly preceded James VI/I, and James VI/I was the first monarch under the current union to reign in both England and Scotland. (If I remember correctly, this was because Elizabeth produced no issue as she was the "Virgin Queen", and the result was that James was the next in line to assume the English throne.) Of course, this whole thing opens up the fascinating pandora's box of Tudor history, but the key point is that since Elizabeth I of England didn't reign in Scotland, the current monarch is Elizabeth II of England, but Elizabeth I of Scotland.

So, there you have it. More to come!

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Oh, and by the way, if you're at all interested in catching up on Tudor history - which is actually pretty fascinating, particularly to any of you readers who enjoy the personal and political intrigues that I hear they have quite a lot of on that Game of Thrones show (I don't watch it, sorry!), you can learn a lot more from my friends The History Chicks, who have the following episodes available for streaming or download, along with their shownotes: Minicast - Teeny Tiny Tudor Tutorial (podcast/shownotes), Tudor Grandmothers (podcast/shownotes), Katherine of Aragon (podcast/shownotes), Minicast - Anne Boleyn (podcast/shownotes), Last Four Wives of Henry VIII (podcast/shownotes), and Lady Jane Grey (podcast/shownotes). The History Chicks is one of my favorite podcasts, because I love history, and because the two hostesses, Beckett and Susan, have a great "radio presence" and really make the content interesting. When I was working in the Middle East, I found their site and was reticent, but listened to their podcast about Mary Shelley, and was hooked, so to speak. If you're at all interested in Tudor history, or English history, or even just history in general, you should really check them out.

1 comment:

  1. How about this: I just learned something from you- didn't know about the pillar box war (although I highly doubt you had anywhere near complete ignorance of recent history of the British monarchy). I would love to see a post with more photos of boxes- I'm easily amused by visual graphics.

    Nice post, anxious to see what else your year teaches you! Thanks for telling us about your project here and thank you for the kind words.